Women's Basketball: WWU Picked to Win GNAC
SFU's Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (5)  has been selected the GNAC pre-season Player of the Year.
SFU's Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (5) has been selected the GNAC pre-season Player of the Year.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. – Western Washington and Simon Fraser each placed three players on the 2012-13 Great Northwest Athletic Conference pre-season women’s basketball all-conference team.

The Vikings and Clan are also expected to finish 1-2 in the conference race.

Western Washington, which lost to Alaska Anchorage in the 2012 GNAC championship game, received seven of the 10 first-place votes in the coaches’ pre-season poll to outpoint the Clan 96-93. 

Simon Fraser, which will be led this winter by pre-season GNAC Player of the Year Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, received the remaining first-place votes.

Raincock-Ekunwe (6-2, Sr., Vernon, BC) was a near unanimous pick for the Player of the Year award, earning a No. 1 rank on eight of nine opposing coaches’ ballots.

The Simon Fraser forward, who is one of eight returning all-stars including one of two first team selections, was the GNAC’s leading scorer (18.6), rebounder (13.3) and blocked shot artist (1.6) last season.  She broke her own GNAC record for most rebounds per game.

Also back from last year’s first team unit is Montana State Billings guard Bobbi Knudsen (5-8, Jr., Malta, MT), who finished second to Raincock-Ekunwe in scoring averaging 17.8 points per game and also ranked fourth in assists (3.7).Three returning players were second team all-star selections a year ago – Seattle Pacific forward Katie Benson (6-1, Jr., Snohomish, WA), Northwest Nazarene forward Megan Hingston (5-9, Jr., Keizer, OR – McNary) and Western Washington guard Corinn Waltrip (5-6, Sr., Beaverton, OR).

Benson was the conference’s eighth leading scorer (14.7) in her sophomore season.  She also ranked third in blocked shots (1.1) and 12th in rebounding (6.6). 

Hingston finished seventh in scoring (14.8) and ninth in rebounding (7.3) and Waltrip ranked 15th in scoring (11.8)  and fifth in assists (3.7).  She is also the defending free throw percentage champion (91.2).

Returning honorable mention all-stars from a year ago include Alaska Anchorage forward Alysa Horn (6-0, Sr., Kodiak, AK), Central Washington guard Jessica VanDyke (5-9, Jr., Chester, MT) and Simon Fraser guard Kristina Collins (5-10, Sr., Port Coquitlam, BC).

Horn is the top returning scorer on Alaska Anchorage’s West Region championship team, coming off the bench to average nine points and five rebounds per game. 

VanDyke  ranked 11th in the GNAC last season averaging 14.2 points per game.  She led the conference in three-pointers made per game (2.7). 

Collins, who averaged 11.4 points per game,  made the most total three-pointers (73) and also finished third in assists (4.3).

All of the returning all-stars except for Collins are unanimous selections to the GNAC pre-season all-conference team. 

Two other players – Western Washington post Brit Harris and Alaska Anchorage guard Sasha King – are also unanimous selections.

Harris (6-2, Sr., Marysville, WA – Pilchuck) averaged 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season for the Vikings, while King (5-6, Sr., Norman, Okla.), who is Alaska Anchorage’s only returning starter, netted seven points per game and ranked second in the GNAC in assists (4.6) and third in steals (2.3).

Completing the 15-women pre-season all-conference team are Seattle Pacific forward Rachel Murray, Northwest Nazarene guard Chelsie Luke, Saint Martin’s guard Chelsea Haskey,  Western Washington wing Trishi Williams and Simon Fraser forward Erin Chambers,

Murray (5-9, Sr., Eglington,  New South Wales, Australia) averaged 10.7 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Falcons, who are picked to finish third in the conference race ahead of fourth-place Montana State Billings. 

Alaska Anchorage, which will be led by first-year coach Ryan McCarthy is projected to fall to fifth after winning 30 games last season.

Luke (5-9, Jr., Meridian, ID) is one of three returning starters for Northwest Nazarene, which came in sixth in the coaches’ poll ahead of Central Washington and Western Oregon, which are projected to end up seventh and eighth, respectively.   Last year, Luke averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Haskey (6-1, Jr., Olympia, WA – Black Hills) is Saint Martin’s top returning scorer.  Last year she ranked 12th in the conference in scoring (13.4) and sixth in rebounding (7.9). 

She is one of nine returning letter winners for the Saints, who are projected to finish ninth ahead of Alaska Fairbanks.

Williams (5-9, Sr., Mabton, WA) contributed 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists last season to Western Washington’s arsenal, while Chambers (6-1, So., Mission, BC – Heritage Park) averaged 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds to the Clan offense.


Only three newcomers in the GNAC have had previous Division I experience and they will all suit up for Central Washington second-year head coach Shawn Nelson.

Guard Ally Schmitt (5-8, Jr., Snohomish, WA) played in 42 games in two seasons at Montana State.  In her sophomore season, she was averaging 5.3 assists in 10 games when her season ended.

Guard Tayler Weiks (5-9, So., Tumwater, WA) played in 30 games during her freshman season at Idaho and averaged 3.7 points per game, while guard Shayla Ball (5-11, Sr., Hillsboro, OR) played in 19 games at Florida Gulf Coast.


Two transfers from NCAA Division II programs will play for Alaska Fairbanks - guard Teanna Boxley and center Jacqueline Bartleson.

Boxley (5-5, Sr., Mesa, AZ) averaged 9.1 points last season for the University of Montevallo, while Bartleson (6-2, Jr., Santa Fe, NM) had a “cup of coffee” with Fort Hays State playing in just two contests.

Guard Austin Hanser (5-7, Jr., Billings, MT) was a first team Frontier Conference all-star for NAIA Rocky Mountain before transferring to Montana State Billings.  She averaged 12.2 points per game for the Battling Bears.


After redshirting last season at Western Washington, guard Brandi Benner (5-5, Jr., Lynden, WA) will play this winter for the Vikings.  Two years ago she was the Northern Region MVP at Skagit Valley.

In addition to its three Division I transfers, Central Washington also added guard Leslie Stillar (5-6, Jr., Nine Mile Falls, WA – Lakeside) who averaged 13.3 points per game in earning first team NWAACC East Region honors at Walla Walla CC.

Alaska Anchorage guard Jamie Wilson (5-7, Jr., Eugene, OR – North Eugene) was a NWAACC Southern Region honorable mention selection at Linn-Benton before heading north.


College of Southern Idaho provided two new players to GNAC teams.  Mechela Barnes (5-6, Jr., Tacoma, WA – Bellarmine Prep) will play for Seattle Pacific after averaging 13.7 points and earning second team all-region honors at the JC powerhouse. 

Meanwhile, Kylee Schierman (5-10, Jr., Portland, OR- Central Catholic) will complete her collegiate career at Northwest Nazarene after earning honorable mention all-region honors at CSI where she averaged 10 points and 6 ½ rebounds.

Other JC transfers with strong pedigrees include Alaska Anchorage guard Mariesha Harris (5-10, Jr., Indianapolis, IN),  Alaska Fairbanks guards Destini Lewis (5-4, Jr., Beaumont, TX – North Platte CC) and April Fultz (5-6, Jr., Rialto, CA) and Western Oregon guard Chantel Divilbiss (5-7, Jr., Moscow, ID).

Harris was an all-region selection at Wabash Valley in Illinois before signing with the Seawolves, while Lewis and Fultz starred at North Platte CC and San Bernardino CC, respectively.  Fultz was a third team all-state pick. 

Divilbiss, who starred at North Idaho, is the daughter of University of Illinois assistant coach Mike Divilbiss who spent the last four seasons as an assistant at Wisconsin – Green Bay.  He previously was the head coach at Idaho and was a highly successful head coach at Lewis-Clark State before moving on to the Division I ranks.


Sixty percent (30 of 50) of the starters from last year in the GNAC return for the 2012-13 season.  Simon Fraser returns five, while Montana State Billings and Western Washington each return four. 

Alaska Fairbanks, Northwest Nazarene, Seattle Pacific and Western Oregon each  return three.  Central Washington and Saint Martin’s have two each.  Alaska Anchorage has just one.

Western Washington has the most returning letter winners with 10.  Saint Martin’s, Seattle Pacific and Simon Fraser have eight each.  Northwest Nazarene and Alaska Fairbanks have six each, while Western Oregon and Alaska Anchorage have five a piece.

Raincock-Ekunwe (scoring, rebounding, blocked shots), Waltrip (free throw percentage) and VanDyke (three-pointers made) are all returning statistical champions.

Ten of last year’s Top 20 scorers return including four of the Top 10.  Ten of the Top 20 rebounders,  including five of the Top 10, are also back.